A Sent People – Part 5: Being Part of the Answer

This is part five of a 5-part devotional series based on Luke 10:1-12 (See part one and two and three and four) It includes the reading of Scripture, considering its teaching, asking questions of ourselves for reflection, and applying it in practical ways. Enjoy.


Part 5: Being Part of The Answer

Passage: Luke 10

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go your way; behold I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the labourer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless, know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.”

A Sent People - Part 5_ Being Part of the Answer

Consider:

One of the problems we can see from the passage, and in throughout this series, is that there aren’t enough followers being harvesters in the field.

Rather than being part of the problem, we are to be part of the answer.

We are the ones who have been sent by Jesus to share his Good News to the people of the world. In connection with the previous posts we are involved in the wider story of God. Today, we continue to be God’s messengers. We are his workers in his harvest field, seeking to share the Good News with the people who need to hear it. And while there will be judgement on those who reject God that is not ours to take part in. We are here to be part of what God is doing in the world. It is the message of the Gospel that provides hope for the world and true salvation for those who accept it.

If we aren’t being followers of Jesus who are taking part in the harvest then we are being part of this problem, are we not? How do we become part of the solution? It is by intentionally living lives that are witnessing to our faith and to Jesus’ impact in our lives. It is by not merely walking through life believing that we know the Good News and leaving it to rot. It is through becoming one of the workers.

As we’ve seen, there is a cost to this. It may mean giving up or leaving behind things that we consider precious. We need to let go of stuff, as Jesus talks about to his followers. That which binds us down or stops us moving forward is a hindrance to working in the harvest field.

As we intentionally go about focusing on being a solution in the Kingdom of God we are to seek out those who are friendly to us and the message of the Good News. There are people of peace who we can connect with, begin building relationships with, and who open up their lives for us just as we do so for them. What we need to do here is to open our eyes to the people God has placed in our lives and see where God is already at work.

As we speak, and as we show the love of God through the person of Jesus, we are an open people. Learning and loving along the way from our mistakes but more importantly, representing Christ as we seek to follow him authentically. It is this kind of living that helps bring people closer to the Kingdom.

It is hard. It’s not promised as easy. There will be times when we fail and make mistakes. But what is important is that we continue to try. We attempt to do this with love and compassion of God and people.

Ask Yourself:

  • Jesus expects his sent followers to share the message of the kingdom to the towns they go to and the people they meet. When was the last time you shared about your faith to someone else? What is stopping you from sharing something of your faith in the coming month?
  • The kingdom of God is near. How can you bring the kingdom of God to people in your community?

Take A Step:

  1. Write out your story of faith. Find someone to share this story with in the coming month.
  2. As you pray this week, thank God for the Good News and how the kingdom of God has impacted you and your life. Pray also for those who don’t know God and ask that he can reveal himself to them.
  3. Choose to give a certain amount of money to an organisation or person that helps share the Good News to people who do not yet know Jesus. Make this a practical step this week in helping others hear the Gospel.

A Sent People – Part 4: The Kingdom of God Is Near

This is part four of a 5-part devotional series based on Luke 10:1-12 (See part one and two and three) It includes the reading of Scripture, considering its teaching, asking questions of ourselves for reflection, and applying it in practical ways. Enjoy.


Part 4: The Kingdom of God Is Near

Passage: Luke 10:9-11

Heal the sick who are there and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

A Sent People - Part 4_ The Kingdom of God Is Near

Consider:

There are times when the people of God are not accepted. This is to be expected. At times it may be worth persevering through the dislike but at other times it’s not worth it. It’s time to move on.

Jesus encourages those he sends to heal the sick and say to the people ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ As Luke outlines in v1, Jesus will soon be following these workers and coming by the towns and villages they minister to. What is important is the message. The message that the kingdom is coming is to be made known to the people. How they respond will consequently be judged by God in the future. The message is to be made public, but so is the recognition that they have rejected this message. God’s workers will need to discern when it is appropriate to move on to other pastures. However, they will make it known that their rejection will be public, and the message is still the message.

But how do we show that the Kingdom of God is near? What are some practical examples that lead us to conclude that the Kingdom of God is working within others and in particular places?

One way to see God working in our lives, or in a particular place, is to look with intentionality at the various ‘communities of practice’ that operate in your life or the life of others.

These communities of practice are activities that naturally occur, and you may already be involved in, but become places where God can use you to share the message of the Kingdom. For example, you may be involved in a sporting club where your involvement can be a witness to others. To take it a step further you can be intentional about how you approach this activity. Rather than simply being there for the sport and fun it becomes a harvest field; where you are now one of the workers who are building authentic relationships with your teammates. There may be a person or peace there welcoming you into the club or team, and it is important to be on the lookout for a person like this. This type of intentionality is an important key in seeing the activities you do during the week as being part of being a witness as a follower of Jesus, drawing people closer to the Kingdom of God. This could also be how you understand your knitting club, your book club, your art class, your uni subjects, your school class, etc etc.

Jesus is making it clear that he has come to bring in the kingdom of God. He is following his sent workers and as he sends them he reveals to those in his hearing that he will bring this kingdom of God to the people, households, towns and villages that these 72 go to.

Judgement will come and for those who respond negatively to the message of Jesus, this Good News of the kingdom of God, will be found wanting. The judgement upon them will be worse than it was for Sodom in the Old Testament, where that city was destroyed because of its disobedience and active rejection of God and his ways (Genesis 19).

Ask Yourself:

  • There are times when moving on from relationships seems to be required if the mission of God is to be fulfilled. How do you think we can discern this in the relationships we have with others?
  • God will judge those who hear the revelation of his kingdom. Whether they respond positively or negatively is not ours to judge, it is for God.
  • People will accept and reject the Good News, this message of the kingdom. What stops us from sharing the message of the kingdom to others?
  • God’s judgement will be full and forceful for those who reject him. Jesus has already said the harvest is plentiful, how can we be part of the solution? What can we be part of in order to help people from this judgement?

Take A Step:

  1. Write down on a piece of paper who and how you will share an aspect of your relationship with Jesus to someone in the next fortnight.
  2. Pray and seek God’s guidance on which relationships in your life need to be held loosely. Seek out a mature believer for their guidance in this matter.
  3. What part of your week is most like a ‘community of practice’? How could you be more intentional about your relationships and weekly activities for the work of the Kingdom?

A Sent People – Part 3: People of Peace

This is part three of a 5-part devotional series based on Luke 10:1-12 (See part one and two) It includes the reading of Scripture, considering its teaching, asking questions of ourselves for reflection, and applying it in practical ways. Enjoy.


Part 3: Person of Peace

Passage: Luke 10:5-8

“Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the labourer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you.”

A Sent People - Part 3_ People of Peace

Consider:

Now Jesus seems to be giving advice on how to greet people to those he is sending out. He is expecting them to be entering people’s houses as part of their ministry. As they meet new people in the towns and villages the workers will be entering houses and begin building relationships. Jesus encourages those he sends to come into a place with an attitude of peace. They are to approach each household with an intention of bringing peace. When this has been given, it seems it is evident someone of peace will be there. If a ‘person of peace’ is in this place then the peace will rest upon them. A relationship will be built and a friendship ensue. They will not be against the worker, but will be helpful and seek to encourage their work. They will be open to the worker of the harvest and give them a fair hearing.

Who is a ‘person of peace’? A person of peace is someone who likes you and you like them. They are not a believer initially but is someone who welcomes you and receives you into their life. They may serve you and you may invest in them. They are a helper in connecting you to other relationships in their network. Over time it may be the case that they turn to follow Jesus themselves, but initially they are helpful friends in the task of spreading the message of the Kingdom.

If this person of peace isn’t found within a particular house then it will be evident. The worker in the harvest will discern whether or not there is peace in the house they go to. If this isn’t the case they will move on to the next place.

When accepting the hospitality of others it is encouraged to stay in the same house. This will bring honour upon that house as they continue to provide for the worker of the harvest. This also shows that the worker isn’t someone who leeches off others by moving from house to house getting the choice hospitality from different families in the town. A deeper relationship is built with that one household rather than the shallow friendships of many people.

During their stay at a particular town they are to contribute to society. The labourer deserves their wages and are to not be freeloading from the community. They are to work and contribute to the community, serving the community during their stay. They will be provided for, this provision ultimately coming from God, in the needs that they require – food and shelter. It is not appropriate for the labourer to be picky but to eat what is in front of them and accept the hospitality provided by the household.

Ask Yourself:

  • It is important for labourers of the harvest to approach their mission with grace and peace. When you are involved in ministry to your neighbours, or through your church, do you have this attitude?
  • Relationships with certain people take time and require discernment. Are you building deep relationships with people in your community? Are there some relationships that you need to ‘move on’ from?
  • God will provide the needs of those who work in his harvest field. Are you taking on too much yourself, do you need to handover your needs and wants to God and trust him for them?
  • As God’s workers we are to contribute to the community, both church and wider community. How are you serving the communities you are part of? In what ways can you build relationships through serving and helping others?

Take A Step:

  1. In the next three weeks resolve to invite someone you wouldn’t normally to your home for a meal.
  2. As you think about the different communities you are involved in, pray for discernment as to what relationships should be a priority for you.
  3. As you meet someone new in the next little while make an effort to be a person or peace.

A Sent People – Part 2: Travel Lightly

This is part two of a 5-part devotional series based on Luke 10:1-12 (See part one) It includes the reading of Scripture, considering its teaching, asking questions of ourselves for reflection, and applying it in practical ways. Enjoy.


Part 2: Travel Lightly

Passage: Luke 10:4

“Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.”

A Sent People - Part 2_ Travel Lightly

Consider:

Jesus continues talking to those he is sending out. This time he tells them to travel lightly. In fact, it almost sounds like they aren’t to take anything at all. Furthermore, when they see people it seems they are to be rude to them by continuing on to their destination, ignoring any greetings given. But this isn’t quite the case.

Those being sent out into the harvest have what they need. They have the Lord Jesus for protection and all the material needs required. They will be supplied with all they need while out in the harvest, nothing more is needed. What they have in their wallets is sufficient, their bag and shoes are good enough, and those they meet may well hold them up as they head out to the field.

As God calls those to be workers in the harvest it is important to understand the importance of travelling lightly. There is a need to let go of comfort and not to be weighed down by the materialism, consumerism, and security that surrounds us today. Just as it is easier to get through an airport terminal when only having carry-on luggage, so too it is easier for the workers of the harvest to keep things simple and take very little on their journey. They are to leave behind that which binds them, which holds them up, which stops them from moving forward. They are to continue to share the message of the Kingdom to those in their influence.

This not only speaks of the physical and material lightness required in mission but also the openness we have in our weeks and relationships. There is much that holds us up from sharing the message of the Kingdom, nothing more so than weeks filled with activities and appointments. There is something to be said about giving space in our weeks so we can be open to how God is leading and moving in our lives. More directly, the more intentional we are about leaving behind that which binds will mean we are more open to see God move and have the space to respond to His leading. This might mean that we have the freedom to find new ways of building relationships. It may mean we have more energy to be hospitable. It may mean we find ourselves drawn closer to Jesus and his mission because we are open to seeing how he will use us to build the Kingdom.

There will always be people who wish to talk and seek to be helpful for the workers of the Kingdom. Eastern culture is a hospitable culture and a culture that includes many greetings and customs. These can hold the workers up if they are to greet every person they meet along the way. Instead, Jesus encourages them to be so focussed on the harvest that they spend no time worrying about the custom of greetings in their society. They are not to get distracted in these things. Refusing hospitality from their own people is not looked upon fondly, but Jesus directs his workers to get on with the task of sharing the Gospel of the Kingdom and make it a priority.

Rather than being drawn into these meaningless greetings followers of Jesus are to build authentic relationships with people. Over time these greetings become meaningless because they aren’t said with intention, it’s just what people do when they see each other. On the other hand, authentic relationships are to be built, and through these friendships the sharing of the Good News can be told in conversation or seen through actions of hospitality and care.

Ask Yourself:

  • When Jesus sends his workers out into the harvest field he gives them all that they require. Are you trusting that Jesus has equipped you in your ministry right now?
  • Being a harvester requires us to carry little. What do you need to lay aside in order to walk more lightly as a pilgrim of Jesus?
  • There is much to distract us from the mission God has given us. Is there anything distracting you from being in the harvest field right now? What can you do to change that?

Take A Step:

  1. Spend some time in prayer thanking God for the gifts he has given you and the way he continues to equip you.
  2. Write down three things in your life that is holding you up in your relationship with Jesus. Lift them up in prayer and give them over to God.
  3. What is distracting you from being involved in God’s harvest? Talk to someone who can help you be involved in ministry in your neighbourhood more easily.

A Sent People – Part 1: The Abundant Harvest

This is part one of a 5-part devotional series based on Luke 10:1-12. It includes the reading of Scripture, considering its teaching, asking questions of ourselves for reflection, and applying it in practical ways. Enjoy. 


Part 1: The Abundant Harvest

Passage: Luke 10:1-3

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go your way; behold I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves”.

A Sent People - Part 1_ The Abundant Harvest

Consider:

As Jesus commissions his followers to take the Kingdom of God to the towns and villages in the region he begins by explaining what is before them. They are few, but those who need to hear this message are many. Jesus himself will follow the labourers but these labourers are an important part of the Kingdom of God. They are people sent by Jesus himself.

Jesus uses the farming imagery of a harvest, where there is plenty of work to do yet there are not many followers. Few followers of Jesus are willing to be harvesters. At the end of Luke 9 Jesus talks of the difficulty it is to be a follower of Jesus. There is a cost to following Him. One of those costs will include being part of a small group who intentional speak the message of the Kingdom to those who do not know him. This could also be seen as a privilege.

Recognising this dilemma Jesus calls on the 72 to pray to the Lord of the harvest for more workers. There is always a need for more people to take up their cross and become harvesters for the Lord. There is always more need for people to share the message of Jesus with others and be part of helping them come to know the Lord. It is people that Jesus encourages these workers to pray for. It is people who God uses to help bring others to an understanding of who Jesus is and what is involved in His Kingdom. The Lord has his hand over the harvest, he knows them and will call them to Himself, and he uses his followers to help achieve this calling.

Linked to this cost of following Jesus is the reality in which the workers find themselves in. Those who come to work for the Lord and seek to be harvesters will be walking into difficulty. This time Jesus uses the imagery of lambs being among wolves. Lambs are creatures without much protection, they can’t protect themselves but need a shepherd to take care of them. They are followers yet can’t look after themselves when danger is around. Wolves on the other hand search and are on the lookout to catch a lamb and devour it. A follower of Jesus sent into the harvest is like a lamb, protected by Jesus the True Shepherd, being chased and harassed by those who seek to have them devoured. They are in a vulnerable position and will be relying on the protection of the Lord as they seek to share the message of the Kingdom.

Ask Yourself:

  • Jesus sends believers out. Following Jesus requires stepping out into the wider community and witnessing to the Kingdom of God. In what areas of your community are you being a witness?
  • There is a desperate need for people to commit to being a worker in the harvest. Is the Lord calling you to be a full-time worker?
  • More workers for the harvest should be on our prayer list. God wants us to pray for people to take up the task of working for the Kingdom. Can you pray for more workers?
  • Those already in the harvest working are in a vulnerable position. Pray for those you know who are currently working at sharing the Gospel. They are in need of our prayers.

Take A Step:

  1. Spend some time in prayer, ask God what part of the harvest you are called to be part of?
  2. Find out what missionaries your church supports, spend 10 minutes this coming week praying for them as they work in the harvest.
  3. Ask someone in your congregation that has experience in being a worker for the Lord. What was their experience in being sent out into the harvest? What were the challenges for them as they served God in this way?

Chicken Nuggets or Gospel Nuggets

Every now and then I like to spoil my four-year-old daughter by taking her out for fast food. Her food of choice is usually chicken nuggets. You know, those small morsels of processed chicken enveloped in a thin batter. If she’s hungry enough she’ll eat six in one sitting.

These little pieces of chicken are called nuggets because they’re small enough to eat quickly and they temporarily satisfy our hunger. Unlike a large piece of chicken, where we might need to use a knife and fork, chicken nuggets provide a quick go to for food.

Throughout the New Testament, either in the Gospels or in the Letters of Paul and Peter and John, we can find gospel nuggets. These are bite-size pieces of the Good News that remind us of who God is and what he has done in Jesus. Unlike chicken nuggets these are easily digestible and all-satisfying truths of the Christian faith.

One such nugget I came across recently is from Titus 3:3-7. It reads:

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

In reading this I am reminded of the position I used to be in before knowing Jesus, and now the position I find myself in because of Jesus.

Formerly I was in a place that was foolish. In this position I sought to gain pleasure for myself, looking out solely for my own needs and wants. This leads down a path that is unhelpful and unhealthy. Seeking pleasure in the wrong place, and in pursuing wrongful passions, we end up being people who are prideful, egotistical, and self-centred.

Knowing the position we are in it is then revealed to us that through the love and kindness of God we can be rescued from this inwardly focussed life. Instead, through the mercy of God, we have been saved through Christ Jesus. We haven’t done anything to achieve such kindness and love but God has done it all. From one reality our eyes are opened to another reality. This new reality understands that through the Spirit our hearts have been changed and we have been rescued from our own selfishness.

Because of this we are (1) included into God’s family, (2) made right with God, (3) have an inheritance given to us from God, and (4) our hope is put into perspective because of eternity with God.

That is four gifts that God has freely given to us because of his kindness, love, and mercy.

What an amazing gift!

  • As you ponder your own position with God have you come to understand the gifts God seeks to give you?
  • As you dwell on this gospel-nugget can you see the all-satisfying grace of God?

As you go about your day today, take this gospel-nugget and chew on it. Digest it. Understand it. And may it nourish you in a way that no fast food outlet can.


This post was originally published elsewhere on the interwebs but is no longer available.

God’s Love Expressed: Through Our Love For One-Another

In the passage 1 John 4:7-21 the beginning and the end command us to love one-another.

It’s like a love one-another sandwich.

In v7-8 it reads,

“Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

And v21 says,

“And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.”

Whether there is an issue within the churches John is writing to, I’m not sure. But he certainly makes it clear that loving one-another in an important part of what it means to be in community together.

Because love has come from God we are to love one-another.

To love one-another is an expression of what it means to love God; a visible expression of God being a God of love.

God's Love Expressed Through Our Love For One-Another

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to find churches who have within their history periods of time where loving one-another is lacking.

But a church devoid of love is like a tap without water.

A church devoid of love is like a football team without players.

A church devoid of love is like an orchestra without its conductor.

A church devoid of love is like cushion without stuffing.

A church devoid of love is like a car tyre without air.

A church without love is an unmitigated disaster.

And I wonder whether John would suggest they are really a church at all.

In his book, ‘The Compelling Community’, Mark Dever writes,

“To follow Christ is to love other Christians…Love between believers isn’t a sign of maturity; it’s a sign of saving faith.” (Dever, 52)

And John seems to suggest this here in our passage. The church, when loving one-another, show they are people who truly believe in the Lord Jesus, acknowledge his saving grace, and understand his atoning sacrifice for sin.

We may know these truths individually and personally. But, we should also see and know it together as a community, as a church.

Love between believers is the sign of a faith that is grounded in Christ and confirmed by the Holy Spirit.

In the same book, Dever says,

“Our greatest confirmation of the gospel is the community of the local church. Therefore, our best strategy for reaching the world is to fan that community into a raging inferno of supernatural witness that will be far more attractive than any adjustment to our music, small groups, or sermons could ever be.” (Dever, 192)

The love of one-another within the local church is what is attractive to others. It is the love of one-another that stands out to visitors and non-believers. It feeds into the mission and evangelistic edge of the church that we are called to be part of.

As Jesus meets with his disciples for the last time before his death he says these words in John’s Gospel, 13:34-35,

““I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

And in Romans 12:10, Paul writes,

“Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Out do one another in showing honour.”

Through the love we have for one-another people see the gospel worked out in practice as we build one-another up through love.

When a local church is going through hardship, significant conflict and disagreement, there will often be less people drawn to the church. The effect of a church lacking in love will mean that there are less new people coming along and less people turning to Christ. On the other hand, when a church displays love for one-another the love of Christ is displayed for all to see. It can be seen and felt within the church itself and draws people in.

It is through our love for one-another in our church that expresses the love God has for us.

In my previous blog post I started by talking about the movie Frozen. How Anna can only be saved by an expression of true love.

We too can only be saved by an expression of true love. This expression of true love is God sending his Son Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for our sin. Through the cross God expresses his saving love for us. And building on this, we too can be part of God expressing his love for others by the way we love one-another in our church.

God’s Love Expressed: Through The Cross

In our house princess stories and movies are high on the agenda. Over the last few years the movie Frozen has been a regular viewing experience.

You may know the story yourself.

We sit on the couch and watch the journey of Elsa and Anna, both princesses of the royal family trapped within the walls of the castle. Yet, it isn’t until Elsa becomes Queen that the gates are opened and the connection with the people is renewed. But because of Elsa’s special powers, and their uncontrollability, the city is sent into a perpetual winter and she runs away to hide and live by herself.

Princess Anna goes on an adventure to find her sister and have her return, but in the process she is struck by Elsa’s icy powers. From here on in there is a distinct concern for Anna who can only be saved by an expression of true love.

I won’t spoil the ending.

But Frozen is a story with twists and turns, and is of course a story of love.

In the Bible we read of the way God has expressed his love toward us. In fact, the whole Bible is God’s love story toward his creation. We see this from Genesis to Revelation, as God seeks to be with his people who are so often rejecting his love.

In 1 John 4:9-10 we read about the pinnacle of this story, the pinnacle of God expressing love. It says,

“God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

This is the extent of the love God has for us; his expression of true love for his creation.

God's Love Expressed Through The Cross

I wonder how you express love?

I wonder how you express the love you have for others, for your family, your friends, your pets, the things you do, the things you have?

A little while ago Ed Sheeran released his single, ‘Perfect’. In the lead up to the release of the song he publicly stated that he wanted this to be his best song ever. Here are some of the lyrics:

I found a love for me

Darling just dive right in

And follow my lead

Well I found a girl beautiful and sweet

I never knew you were the someone waiting for me

‘Cause we were just kids when we fell in love

Not knowing what it was

I will not give you up this time

But darling, just kiss me slow, your heart is all I own

And in your eyes you’re holding mine

Baby, I’m dancing in the dark with you between my arms

Barefoot on the grass, listening to our favourite song

When you said you looked a mess, I whispered underneath my breath

But you heard it, darling, you look perfect tonight

Ed here (yes, we’re on a first name basis) is expressing love. He is expressing his deepest love for his girl through song. It is a clear expression of love.

And while 1 John 4 isn’t talking about romantic love it nevertheless describes the love God has for us.

John describes the love God has for us as sacrificial love. He points out that God has shown his love for us through, (1) the sending of his one and only son, and (2) as an atoning sacrifice for our sin.

The way God has shown his love for us is through Jesus.

The way God has shown his love for us is through the cross.

It is a cross-bound, life-sacrificing love.

This love is a relational love, meaning God has such a strong affection for us, he cherishes us so much, that he is willing to die for us.

This is a love that is deeply personal, a love that shows his commitment and faithfulness to us. This committed love, this affection for us, is displayed for us through the action of sacrifice. He loves us so much that he sent his one and only Son to be an atoning sacrifice for us.

He loves us so much that he sent himself, in human form, to take our place on that cross.

This sacrificial love is the love God has for us.

In the original languages the particular word for ‘atoning sacrifice’ is only used twice in the whole of the New Testament. Here in v10 and also back in 1 John 2:2. As one commentator has put it, it is a term to,

“…emphasise that God sent Jesus Christ to be the atoning sacrifice to remove the guilt we have incurred because of our sins so that we might have eternal life. This is the great expression of God’s love, and on this basis the author can say God is love.” (Kruse, 161)

Due to our sin, both the sin we do as action and the sinful nature we find ourselves battling against as fallen creatures, we are in need of a saviour.

The reality is that our hearts are naturally inclined to sin. Sin isn’t just what we do that is bad, or immoral, or hurtful, it is more than that. It is a heart position. It is the state of our heart that means we are against God in everything we do.

The bible speaks of our heart as being against God and His goodness.

Our hearts, from birth, are defective.

Our hearts are selfish and messy.

Essentially we’re a mess.

And so, we find God sending his one and only Son in order for our sinful natures to be transformed. Transformed into life-giving, self-sacrificing, love-promoting hearts. Sin is forgiven, our hearts are changed, and we begin to be changed into creatures perfected by his love.

Ironically, Ed Sheeran’s song, which I read out earlier, points to this. You may not remember but he sings,

When you said you looked a mess, I whispered underneath my breath

But you heard it, darling, you look perfect tonight

Did you see it? Do you get it?

We are a mess yet because of God’s great love for us he looks upon us because of the cross and says, ‘you’re perfect’. As we dance with God through what we call life God understands our mess, and because of the cross calls us perfect.

Our mess is made perfect through his sacrificial love.

Through the atonement God’s love is expressed. And through the atonement we find ourselves transformed away from selfishness and mess and made into people of perfected, sacrificial love.

Unlimited Access To God

The Melbourne Cricket Club membership is one of the most important and prestigious memberships in our country. I’m not saying that because I enjoy my sport, I’m saying that because it will take you 20 years to receive the opportunity to join, if you apply today. That’s right, 20 years. Currently, the waiting list is over 225,000 people long. It tells a story of its importance to our city and to our country.

With this MCC membership comes particular privileges. You see, access into the more prestigious part of the MCG, including the Long Room and the Members Dining Room are now open to you. Along with these privileges comes responsibilities. These include appropriate behaviour and dress. But unless you have a membership, and wear the appropriate gear, you don’t have access to the seating and rooms available to you when you are a member. A non-member has no such access.

Thankfully, when it comes to access to God there are no such barriers. We have personal, relational, and unlimited access to God because of who Jesus is and what he has achieved.

Unlimited Access To God

One of the key themes of the Christian scriptures is that of access to God. Access to God in the Bible is depicted in different ways through the various parts of the Christian story but it all heads toward an understanding that we can have personal, relational, and unlimited access to God.

In the beginning, back when God created the world and everything in it, access to God is personal, relational, and unlimited. But this is torn to shreds when his creation takes it upon themselves to do their own thing. As Adam and Eve are disobedient to God we find the entrance of sin into the world, drastically changing the shape of humanity’s relationship with God.

And from here the story of God and his people unfolds like a dance. There is the seeking of restoration with God but also the reality and tension of son, distorting humanity and their worship of God as God.

In the book of Leviticus God and his people are together again. Yet, for the proper worship of and access to God particular regulations put in place. These regulations come in the form of instructions or laws, led by a tribe of people designated as priests for all of God’s people. These priests would perform their duties in the Tabernacle, a large tent designed and built for the worship of God. Later in Old Testament this would become a Temple, a permanent residence where God would reside in the most inner place, the Holy of Holies.

And so access to God was limited to the priests, often limited to one day per year for the particular sacrifices and festivals expected. The ordinary Hebrew is cut off from access to God, their worship is delegated through the priests. Like an MCC membership, access to God is restricted to certain people.

Thankfully, however, we understand through the New Testament, that the restriction in worship to God has been once again opened up. Jesus comes and fulfils the role of the priest. He is the one who restores our relationship with God. He is the one who is sacrificed for the sin of the people. He is the one upon which this sin is placed. He is the one who provides access to God – personal, relational, unlimited access to God.

The writer of Hebrews outlines the way Jesus completes and fulfils this role. But more specifically, he writes in chapter 4:14-16:

“Therefore, since we have a great High Priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

The uniqueness of the Christian faith, the uniqueness of Jesus, is that we don’t have to do anything to have full access to God.

We don’t have to say any particular prayers, we don’t have to earn any particular merit, we don’t have to perform any particular rituals, we don’t have to give any particular gifts to earn God’s grace and mercy – to gain access to God himself.

No, God has provided for us personal, relational, and unlimited access to himself through this great High Priest Jesus.

We aren’t on any sort of waiting list. We aren’t required to have any particular dress code. We aren’t limited in our access to God because of what we have done. No, we can go with confidence and approach God, receiving his grace and mercy and help in our time of need.

Whatever our need, we find ourselves able to have access to God. And not just able to have access, but we can have confidence in coming to Jesus, the Son of God.

Day 14 – You Are Relational

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)

The God we worship is a relational God.

He could’ve done anything he liked and what he chose to do was create humanity in order to have a relationship with him. We see in the first book of the Bible that he not only creates the world and everything in it, but there is a particular emphasis on him creating humanity as the pinnacle of his creation. We as his creatures reflect the image of God. We carry within us, and possibly outside of us, aspects of God himself. In recognising this we find we are image bearers of God. We bear the image of God as we walk and talk, as we connect and commune with others.

God, being a relational God and creating us to be in relationship with him, therefore, puts into us something of that relational characteristic that he has.

We reflect God’s relational character in our lives.

Therefore, we find we have a yearning for relationships.

We seek after relationships with others, we seek their company, friendship, acceptance and love.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Relational

The explosion of social media in recent years highlights the fact that we want to tell others about ourselves, and probably highlights our voyeuristic tendency to want to see what others are up to as well. But, it seems that we want to be in relationship with others, and seek that relationship in a variety of places. Whether it is face-to-face or online there is a yearning and desire for relationship in our lives. Some find these fulfilling relationships in positive places, others fall into the arms of harm and pain, suffering as they seek to find the relationship they desire.

This creation narrative in the opening chapter of the bible (Genesis 1:26-28) reminds us we are not accidents and that we are made for one-another. Not all relationships need to be physical or sexual, but they do need to be person to person, seeking to love one-another because that is what we are created to so. This kind of relationship is not simply between one person to another either. It is relationship with groups of people, with a community.

Thankfully, God in his infinite wisdom provides a community for believers that is to meet aspects of this relational need.

God has designed a community in the form of his people, the Church.

When we think of church we may not have great things to say about it. We may think of it as only a meeting place for singing songs, praying prayers, and hearing someone speak to us. Church is meant to be much more than a place to gather for 90 minutes on a Sunday. The church is to be a place where we find God-fashioned community.

In Acts 2:42-47 we see the early church, those who had contact with Jesus in his lifetime and witnessed his presence in physical form, came together with other believers in community. As part of that coming together they had meals together, prayed together, heard teaching together, and simply hung out with one-another. This was the germinating church, the church in its infancy as believers came together, bonded together, and were in community.

This is God’s people living together as God’s people.

In today’s Western society we can look around and see that our churches and communities of faith are not expressing themselves in the same way. Due to cultural and societal factors this doesn’t occur as it did in first-century Palestine. But as God has designed it we are made to commune with one-another on a regular basis, as an expression of our love for God and love for one-another.

In the book of Hebrews 10:24-25 we are encouraged to not stop meeting together but continue to do so in love and worship.

“…let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other…”

This is not only an expression of church but an expression of worship through community.

Just as we are made for relationship with God and with each other we are also made to express our relationships through community. Together with a group of people we play an important role in helping people know they are loved by God and others.

FOR REFLECTION

  • What relationships are most important to you?
  • How does knowing you were made for relationship and community affect your view of others?
  • In what ways can you contribute to a local church so that others know the love of God?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved
  7. You Are Saved
  8. You Are Free
  9. You Are Chosen
  10. You Are A Child of God
  11. You Are A Slave
  12. You Are Made For Good Works
  13. You Are A Follower